Fr. Z rants about #NotreDame fire and the Faith in the Church’s “eldest daughter”


In 1 Peter 2:2-5 we read:

As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile, that thereby you may grow unto salvation: If so be you have tasted that the Lord is sweet. Unto whom coming, as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen and made honourable by God: Be you also as living stones built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

This passage is especially apt right now, because of the references to “newborn babes” and “living stones”.

First, the theme of newborn babes is particularly important precisely at this time of the liturgical year.  In the ancient Church the catechumens were readied over a long period through traditio and redditio, scrutinies and vigils.  Finally the were baptized at Easter and they were clothed in their white garments.  Augustine referred to them as his “newborn babes”.  During the Easter Octave the wore their garments until finally they were put off and deposited on the Sunday “in albis depositis” in the treasury as a testimony to their new “adult” status.  The introit chant for Sunday in albis, the Octave of Easter, is Quasimodo geniti infantes, precisely our passage…  “As newborn babes”.

Next, there is the reference to “living stones”.

Our churches are “baptized” when they are consecrated.   Just as, in our traditional rites” we begin outside the church with our baptisms, so too with the consecration of a church.  There are exorcisms and then an entrance.  Then the space within is prepared through more exorcisms.  The place is washed with special water, it is named, it is anointed with chrism, candles are given to it, it’s heart, the altar is readied and clothed with white garments only put it symbolically after Holy Thursday.

Rocky stones make buildings, but living stones make churches.

My prayer is that the eldest daughter of the Church, France, may, through this blow to its rocky heart, begin beating again in living Faith.   May she embrace the stone that she rejected and make Him again their cornerstone.  Through her history, she has been taught by heaven what to do and there have been dread consequences when He has been ignored, as, for example, when France was told to embrace Christ’s Sacred Heart.  The request was not headed and the Terror resulted.  One hundred years later, Sacre-Coeur was built above Paris in reparation.

Chesterton said that coincidences are really divine puns.  The figure of a pun is lighthearted, but the point is clear enough.  Providence provides with sign posts on good roads and on rocky paths.

What was torn down can be rebuilt.  Rocky churches have been raised after being razed.

St. Paul’s outside-the-walls was destroyed by a fire that started on the roof due to careless workers.

The Abbey of Montecasino was wiped out by intentional bomb ordered by (probably anti-Catholic) generals.

I don’t have to multiply examples.

Catholic hearts and minds of many around you may look like those photos, above, or of the horrible images we saw of the roof of Notre-Dame, burning, the spire coming down.

Pray for the rebirth of newborn babes of Faith in France and the rebuilding of the Church through beautiful, fire-washed living stones.

Pray, dear readers, through your sharing in the holy priesthood which you received in baptism, to which 1 Peter 2 refers above, and offer your Holy Week penances, perhaps more penances than usual, for the sake of reversions and conversions.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. taylorhall95 says:

    Excellent point. Notre Dame Cathedral will be fully restored. No doubt about that. And all the greatest treasures were preserved.

    What we need to pray for is the Eldest Daughter’s return to the Faith. It was truly remarkable seeing so many Frenchmen on their knees praying and singing Marian hymns in light of the fire. Notre Dame means so much to the French national spirit. But hopefully the French will reflect that in reality, it is the Catholic Faith, not particular church buildings, that made France who she is.

    Someday, I believe that France will recognize this fact. But it must start with the bishops and priests in France. We need them to fight for the Faith and for Catholic Tradition. Enough accommodation with secularism and laicite. Enough false “Spirit of Vatican II” renewal.

    Now is the acceptable time for a restoration. Now is the acceptable time to defend the Church in one of her darkest hours.

    Our Lady of Paris, pray for us!

  2. Diana says:

    Amen, amen!

  3. mibethda says:

    It was just last month that I reread, after many years, Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame (whose central figure received his name from that of the Sunday after Easter on which he was left as a foundling – the antiphon to the introit of which is taken from the verse in 1 Peter). Hugo, who was still a somewhat orthodox Catholic in his belief – and still under the influence of Chateaubriand’e early Romanticism – spends most of the first section of the book describing the history of the cathedral and the beauty of its late Romanesque and early Gothic elements, and condemning the post medieval alterations to the building (which would be somewhat reversed by Viollet le Duc later in the century). It is worthwhile at this time reading his paean to this architectural masterpiece now lying in partial ruins on the Ile de la Cite.

  4. Fallibilissimo says:

    May God move my hard heart to turn away from sin and go to His embracing arms.

    If this is indeed a Divine pun, the strength of the vault with the inferno above which ultimately did not collapse, is such a fitting allegory which speaks to the immense strength of Our Lady as She keeps Herself for Our Lord. Also, especially in these times of crisis in the Church, I see a fitting image for the Catholic Church: the flames are real and very hot, but the Church’s foundations are kept firm by a force greater than any ploy of the evil one.

    If France is to suffer because of her sins, if France is being called to repentance because of her rejection of God, then surely it is true for all of us sinners.

    Notre Dame, priez pour nous, pauvres pécheurs.

  5. jaykay says:

    Not a rant, Father, but more solid catechesis I’d ‘a thought. Thank’ee.

    “Rocky stones make buildings, but living stones make churches.”

    So true. The solid masonry of the stone vaulting saved the building, as it was designed to do. Looking at the coverage last night, particular the aerial shots, which seemed to show a sea of fire, I did despair a bit but also actually wondered whether the vaults were still holding. And they did, mostly. Deo gratias. The side-aisles with their chapels may also be ok, I think. The parallel with San Paolo in Rome is instructive, because its destruction was massive but I don’t think it was stone (or brick)-vaulted, as the Constantinian St. Peter’s wasn’t also? So a fire in the roof would be, and was, much more serious.

    On another, but related, note as regarding living stones (about 10,000 of them, mostly French), I wonder if the Chartres pilgrimage will be able to start from the Parvis this June? The French are wonderful organisers, so it may very well be possible. God bless France, our eldest sister in the faith. May She come again to embrace it.

  6. un-ionized says:

    Monte Cassino abbey was bombed because the Allies were certain that it was being used as an observation post. After the bombing the site was occupied by German paratroopers. My uncle was there. [There’s a lot more to the story. But that’s a rabbit hole, now closed.]

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